Monday 16 March 2015

'In Search of Moderate Muslims'

BBC Radio 4 has given one of its favourites, author Sarfraz Manzoor, the 4.00pm spot tomorrow afternoon. He's presenting a programme called In Search of Moderate Muslims

The pre-broadcast blurb about it poses the following questions:
Is the idea of tolerance and integration a hopeful myth and the reality something more troubling? We're often told the vast majority of Muslims in Britain are moderate - but what exactly does that mean?
Now, if that sounds as if it might lead Radio 4 listeners down some unexpected paths (especially for the BBC), well, it probably won't. Sarfraz Manzoor has an accompanying piece in the Guardian which suggests where he's going to go with the programme:

Sarfraz Manzoor

The word moderate means devout to some, liberal to others. We don’t need it to describe ordinary followers of a tolerant religion.
His closing message in that Guardian piece - and, therefore, in all likelihood on Radio 4 - is:
...let us call those who follow an Islam that is open-minded, liberal and tolerant what they actually are: British Muslims.

The comments below the Guardian article are pretty much one long, sustained heckle against Sarfraz Manzoor - another instance of something Sue pointed out before: that the Guardian's comments section (below the line) now often feels more like the old Telegraph blogs.


Update 17/3: Well, the programme actually turned out to be an interesting one after all. And it did lead Radio 4 listeners down someone unexpected paths. (Re-looking at it, the 'tolerant religion' blurb beneath the Guardian headline couldn't have been written by a Guardian sub-editor.) An apology is, therefore, owed to Sarfraz here.

Sarfraz Manzoor's basis conclusion was that liberal, progressive Muslims like him - contrary to what the BBC and mainstream politicians tell us - are really very much a minority in Britain; so much that that he sometimes feels himself to be something of an oddity.

Most British Muslims don't hold nice, liberal, progressive views - especially the young, with their socially old-fashioned views about women and homosexuality, their earnestness, their religiousness, etc.

Interestingly (from this blog's perspective), he came very close to saying that the BBC spun that Today survey to show that British Muslims are 'nice' and 'moderate' whilst downplaying what he himself found to be its most striking - and alarming - findings: that a large minority of British Muslims expressed some sympathy for the jihadists who attacked Paris, and that nearly half of all those surveyed expressed support for extremely unliberal Muslim preachers.

Furthermore, he articulated, in passing, an intriguing point: that most politicians and people who work media organisations - like the BBC - live in a bubble. They don't have easy access to ordinary Muslims because they aren't people they tend to meet socially.

Instead, they go what they have at hand: either (a) middle-class, metropolitan, media types who share their own (left-liberal, progressive) sensibilities (and Sarfraz included himself among such people) - or (b) self-appointed, cartoon-character 'community leaders' (like Mo Ansar).

They, thus, fall into the trap of assuming that (as most British Muslims can't be cartoon-character-like Muslims) most British Muslims must be, really, 'moderate' Muslims - like Sarfraz - i.e. they engage in wishful thinking.

There's much more besides but, as I've little time to blog tonight, you will have to find out by listening for yourselves.

P.S. My take on this seems to be shared by several commenters at Biased BBC. They sound to have been just as pleasantly surprised as I was.

P.P.S. Sue has posted about a previous programme by Sarfraz Manzoor that struck her as being another unusual - and unusually good - piece of BBC broadcasting.  


  1. This programme simply begs the question, Why are there no programmes with titles like "In Search of Moderate Buddhists", "In search of Moderate Sikhs", "In Search of Moderate Baha'is", "In Search of Moderate Hindus"...? Well, you get the idea.

    Hector Plasm

  2. Hector - you said it well.

    Sarfraz Manzoor is one of those dopey dullards beloved these days of arts progs on BBC. He's in denial. He must have been exposed to Islam and therefore must know what it actually teaches.

    1. Sounds like an apology may be in order. But equally I think he may have some apologising to do for, in the past, characterising people concerned about Islam's belief system as being bigoted.

      Taken together with some sensible comments from Trevor Phillips, it may be that the era of PC delirium is over and we are into a kind of Kulturkampf as the Germans called it in the 19th century.

  3. I have always dismissed Sarfraz Manzoor as just one of the usual suspects on Friday Night Review, but “In Search of Moderate Muslims” was excellent - quite outside the usual BBC dogma. The interviews with young muslin university students in particular, whose views he was clearly at odds with, were both revealing and disturbing.
    I am wondering whether this program actually slipped under the radar as this is possibly the first time I have heard this subject examined in a mature manner on the BBC. This is where the discussion should be, rather than not discussing it at all and hiding behind tired platitudes about diversity and multiculturalism.

  4. Okay, but now we must watch and see if the Beeboids themselves learned anything, or if they'll simply revert to the usual, "Islam is a religion of peace, I know many Muslims and they're all moderate, these people don't represent Islam in any way," etc.

    Sometimes it's more important to change the Beeboids' opinion than it is to change the public's.


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